Irish trawler almost sank by submarine off coast

NewsBy Morgan Flanagan Creagh
Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine (Pic: John Cunningham)
Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine (Pic: John Cunningham)

An Irish prawn trawler was dragged backwards and almost sank when its nets were snagged by a passing submarine.

The trawler, Karen, was about 18 miles off the coast when its nets were snagged shortly after 4pm on Wednesday.

Skipper Paul Murphy told Down News: “Without warning, we were stopped and pulled backwards very violently at around ten knots which is the top speed of the vessel. I really thought that was it.  It was fortunate that one of the steel ropes holding the net snapped or we would have been pulled under very quickly.

"The incident only lasted about just over five seconds but it was very scary. The submarine did not come up to the surface after we tangled with it. We have now lost thousands of pounds of fishing gear because of this. It really should not have happened.”

Mr Murphy said the incident happened at a point known as the Calf of Man not far from the Isle of Man.

Trawler Karen (Pic: Down News)

The Coastguard was put on standby in case the trawler required assistance. However it is understood that the crew members were able to make their way back unassisted.

Sinn Fein MLA Chris Hazzard said "serious questions" will be asked if a submarine was involved.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence was contacted by said they do not comment on submarine activity for security reasons.

However scores of ships and aircraft from 13 countries are currently taking part in war games off the coast of Scotland, in an unprecedented show of military strength.

The NATO exercises involve at least 55 warships, 70 aircraft and 13,000 sailors and will include submarine hunts, amphibious landings and ship against ship attacks.

In December 2013 a shocked Donegal fisherman snapped a picture of what is believed to be a 280ft long Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine, which have been used by the British Navy since 1983.

John Cunningham from Kilybegs told the Mirror that he was searching for fish on his boat ‘Aine’ when he noticed another vessel close-by on his radar.

When he attempted to identify the boat a call came over the radio from a man with an English accent who warned him that they were in the area.

John snapped a picture before the submarine, which is one of five active Trafalgar-class submarines HMS Tireless, Torbay, Trenchant, Talent and Triumph, left the area.

The 5,300 tonne vessel was just 30 miles off the north west coast of Donegal

John said “It’s a long time since I have seen a submarine – perhaps going back as far as the nineties.

“I’m not sure which country it was from or what it was doing as we didn’t want to get too close to it.

“The man we spoke to was a lad with an English accent and he wanted to know where we would be trawling.

“There could be more submarines out there but it could be the case that we simply don’t know they’re there.

“We were just lucky to have come across it after it had surfaced.”